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John Kolar presents "John Muir"

Geauga Park District (Ohio) Chief Naturalist John Kolar has portrayed Muir in various venues in Ohio for years.


"John Muir's message is just as important today as it was in his day,"says John Kolar, Geauga Park District's chief naturalist, who portrays Muir for various programs. "His legacy lives on today and I sincerely hope my portrayal of him inspires people to help protect our precious natural resources and also 'to look at nature's loveliness.'"

"John Muir planted the seeds of wonder for our natural world in many, many people and continues to do so today," Kolar said. "Many people who have been inspired by Muir have done many great things to preserve parks at the national, state and county levels.

Also known as a "far seeking prophet of environmental awareness," his vision also lives on through the American conservation organization The Sierra Club.

"John Muir remains today an inspiration for nature lovers everywhere," Kolar said. "He's someone I am so inspired by. His life reminds us of the important things that just one person can do."

"He does such a wonderful job," said Burton Township's Mike Fath, of Kolar's portrayal of Muir, which takes listeners back in time with his Scottish accent.

In an interview by Betsy Scott for "The News Herald," Kolar said, "I would like to think that I have a lot of similarities. However, I have a long way to go to be anywhere near the level of naturalist that John Muir was. I would say for certain that, like John Muir, I love being inspired by our natural world and I love inspiring others to be inspired by it too." If Kolar enjoys anything as much as nature, it might be performing for a live audience."

Betsy Scott went on to report about a recent presentation that Kolar obviously relished the role of one of his heroes, effortlessly sharing stories from Muir's life and some of his well-known quotes and anecdotes. "He cleverly transformed himself into character — complete with a Scottish accent — before the group of about 30 people, who braved the inclement weather.

"People who have attended this programming always find his impersonation an inspiring substitute for the real thing," said Sandy Ward, Park District communications manager. Attendees were incorporated into the act at times. All were asked to help show the circumference of a Redwood tree by holding a rope in a circle — effectively demonstrating the forest giant's massive size. Dennis Czacherski of Parkman Township was used as a prop to help represent one of Muir's treetop adventures. "I've seen him do this before," Czacherski said. "It's pretty good."

This particular presentation was entitled, "Come Home to Nature" — based on one of Muir's well-known quotes — which fits well with the park district's 2016 theme, "Come Home." "If everyone could love nature a fraction as much as John Muir, I think the world would be a much better place," Kolar said.

Geauga Park District chief naturalist John Kolar holds up a 1903 photograph of John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt during his Living History: John Muir presentation.Reporting on a November 2016 presentation, journalist Jonathan Tressler reported that "in his program, Living History: John Muir, the county park system's chief naturalist helped folks recognize the 100th year of the National Park Service by transforming himself into the quintessential conservationist in the hopes of entertaining, and educating, those who showed up to his show.

"As a naturalist, myself, I, like a lot of people, really look up to him," Kolar said as he prepared for his presentation.

A die-hard fan Muir, Kolar said he thought up the program, with the Geauga Park District's blessing, in honor of the National Park Service's big birthday.

"This being the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, We figured he should make an appearance," he said about the man influential Americans, ranging from early 20th-Century American poet Harriet Monroe and U.S. writer/diplomat Robert Underwood Johnson to American Author Charles Keeler and 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, so admired for his steadfast commitment to preserving as much of the country's wilderness as possible.

Muir — a rugged individualist, adventurer and writer — not only helped to establish the National Park Service and founded the Sierra Club. He's also, among other things, an oft-quoted philosopher whose wit and wisdom has showed countless individuals that it's "important to be as hands-on with nature as people possibly can," Kolar explained during his part of the presentation.

As Kolar informed the few dozen folks gathered in Oak Room A at the West Woods Nature Center about various park programs and eased into his lessons about Muir, including a slide show and a few anecdotes about his own roots in conservationism, he assured attendees Muir was on his way to speak to them.

"He's supposed to be here today. What time is it? 1:18. OK. He's got two minutes," he said, checking his phone for the time.

After stowing the laptop he used to show some photos on the screen in the room because "John Muir told me he doesn't want to do a program with this technology up here," he raced into the adjoining room, shouting "Mr. John Muir," only to have mistaken another man with a beard for the famous fellow.

As he hypothesized about where Muir might be, he gradually took on some of the traits of the man, himself. Before long, a bearded, brim-hat-wearing wanderer appeared before the audience and John Muir as all of a sudden in the house.

He engaged the audience with stories about his travels, talked about some of his inventions and told them about the shop accident that nearly blinded him and, ultimately, led to his decision to head west on foot.

For those in attendance, it seemed magical.

"Oh, I love it," said Mantua resident Karen Carter-Cohn, who likes to visit the West Woods with her three grandchildren, two of whom are 6-year-old twin boys and quite often a handful.

Carter-Cohn said she wasn't even aware of the presentation until they arrived there Nov. 5.

"I come to the West Woods all the time to hang out. We didn't know this was happening today," she said. "And it's just amazing to me that my two grandsons are sitting there. They are not quiet boys."

But she said they were mesmerized by Kolar's performance.

"It's just very impressive," she said. "He's delightful."

Darlene Sanders of Chester Township said she came to Kolar's program in January, despite the snow, and loved every minute of it.

"Everything the park system does is just tremendous," Sanders said. "And (Kolar) is one of the most talented people. I mean, I've been once to see it but he just does such an amazing job at this kind of thing. I've seen some of his other programs and he just always seems to pull a surprise. Even though you may have seen it once, there's still going to be a surprise. It's great."

Kolar said he and the Geauga Park District feel like the Muir program is a keeper and will expand its availability soon to schools and other organizations looking for an entertaining way to share information about the important conservationist.

In park and out of park programs are free to Geauga County schools and organizations. Out of county groups can schedule a Muir program at the West Woods Nature center for a small fee. He encourages interested parties to get in touch with the park system through its website ( or by calling the Geauga Park District at 440-286-9516.

Two minute video clip of John Kolar performing as John Muir is available on YouTube:


Photos courtesy of Rose Nemunatis, Geauga Maple Leaf; and Jonathan Tressler, The News-Herald.

Contact Information

(440) 286-9516



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